The NBA: Midterm Marks Part One

Now that teams are a little past the 41-game mark of the 2012-2013 NBA regular season, I felt it would be good to take stock of how each team has performed and where they could be headed. I’ll also try to take a look at some important developments for the team and give them my own midterm mark, which, for those who bother to think if there’s any objective set of rubrics, is based on my own whimsy.

I shall look at the teams in alphabetical order:
- Part 1 will take a look at ATL until MEM.

Sadly, KG and the Celtics are the biggest losers
in the first half of the season.
(image by Charles Krupa/AP)

  1. Atlanta Hawks: The post-Joe Johnson Hawks don’t look to shabby at 7th spot in the East, though the winds of change might come in pretty soon if Josh Smith gets traded (and I think he will). Mark: B
  2. Boston Celtics: Let’s see – Ray Allen left, Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, Jared Sullinger has a broken back, and Jason Terry has just not been the force Beantown wanted him to be. The Cs are at 9th place in the East, and it’s hard to imagine this team nearly knocked the Heat out of the Playoffs last year. Mark: D 
  3. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets continue to straddle the line between a Top 4 or Bottom 4 East Playoff team. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson haven’t played to their billing, though the emergence of Brook Lopez has been a pleasant surprise. Mark: B
  4. Charlotte Bobcats: The Cats have lost 8 of their last 10 games and there’s really nothing to write home about, even if Kemba Walker is having a whale of a season. Mark: D
  5. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have overtaken the Nets as the third see in the East with lingering injuries to key players. Coach Tom Thibodeau continues to do wonders with his limited resources, and things should only look brighter when Rose returns. Mark: B+
  6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving is an All-Star! Anderson Varejao was the best center in the league before going down with a lung condition! The Cavs still suck. Mark C
  7. Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs sank into a deep hole early in the season, and their aging stars are having real trouble righting the ship. With energetic teams like Utah, Houston, Portland, and the Lakers fighting for the last two Playoff spots, it looks like the 2011 champs will see an early exit. Mark: D
  8. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets have won 8 of their last 10 en route to an unexpected rise to 5th place out West. Also, the Manimal is gonna be unleashed in the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge! ROARRRR! Mark: B+
  9. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Brandon Knight are the future cornerstones of this franchise. Too bad that bright future might still be two seasons away. At 10th place in the East, they, however, have a long shot at stealing 8th spot. Mark: C+
  10. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are going to be in the Playoffs. That’s really all we need to know. Oh, and Steph Curry should’ve been an All-Star alongside teammate David Lee. Mark: A
  11. Houston Rockets: The Rockets continue to blow hot and cold like Jeremy Lin’s game, but star power is definitely back with James Harden’s beard and Chandler Parson’s Light Funky Ones vibe. Mark: C+
  12. Indiana Pacers: Paul George is an All-Star. David West is playing like one. The Pacers are 5th in the East. WITHOUT DANNY GRANGER, and even if Roy Hibbert has been a dud. Mark: B+
  13. LA Clippers: Lob City Clips, Lob City Clips. Such a catchy tune. The Clippers are catching all sorts of awesome at 3rd spot out West, though they’ve split their last 10 games, 5-5, thanks to Paul’s injury. Mark: B
  14. LA Lakers: Will they or won’t they? The Playoff question won’t be answered till perhaps the last week of the season. This experiment has been rocked with criticism, but one can’t fault guys like Kobe and Nash for trying their darnedest. This might not yet be a total Frankenstein failure. Mark C
  15. Memphis Grizzlies: Dealing Gay away will be the turning point of ’12-’13. Can the Grizzlies’ remaining stars hold the fort and sustain their 4th seed? I’m not holding my breath. Mark: C+
Tony Allen rubbing elbows with newly-minted
Grizzly, Tayshaun Prince.
(image by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
January 30
Indiana 98, Detroit 79
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Roy Hibbert recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday, as the Indiana Pacers pounded the short-handed Detroit Pistons, 98-79, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson also posted double-doubles, with Hansbrough tallying 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Stephenson adding 12 points and 11 boards for the Pacers, who have won 12 straight at home. George Hill added 15 points, David West donated 14 points and Paul George gave 10 points in the triumph, which snapped Indiana's three-game skid. Greg Monroe paced the Pistons with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Rodney Stuckey scored 14 points in the setback, Detroit's fourth in its last five games.

Philadelphia 92, Washington 84
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jrue Holiday scored a game-high 21 points and Nick Young added 18, as the Philadelphia 76ers slipped past the Washington Wizards, 92-84, at Wells Fargo Center. Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen each netted 14 points for the Sixers, who got 12 points and 11 rebounds from Spencer Hawes in improving to 2-1 on a season- long eight-game homestand. The Wizards committed 19 turnovers and lost back-to-back games for the first time since John Wall returned to the lineup on Jan. 12. Wall shot just 3- for-12 from the field in finishing with nine points and six assists, while Nene logged a team-high 16 points in the setback. Emeka Okafor totaled 15 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort.

Atlanta 93, Toronto 92
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Al Horford scored the go-ahead basket with 21.5 seconds left to lift the Atlanta Hawks to a 93-92 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Hawks guard Kyle Korver canned a 3-pointer with just under two minutes left to tie the game at 89-89, but Alan Anderson knocked down a 3- pointer of his own to give the Raptors a 92-89 lead with 1:09 left. Horford then knocked down a pair of free throws just under 11 seconds later to pull Atlanta within 92-91. Korver grabbed John Lucas III's missed jumper at the other end and the Hawks quickly called timeout. Following the timeout, Josh Smith took the inbounds pass, dribbled to his left, and then found Horford cutting to the basket and Horford slammed it home. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry drove to the basket with 12.6 seconds left, but was rejected by Horford, and Toronto called a timeout to regroup. Coming out of the timeout, DeMar DeRozan lost control of the ball, but Anderson came out of a small scrum with the ball and fired up a desperation jumper that hit the front of the rim. DeRozan, though, grabbed the rebound, but was blocked by Horford, who threw the ball down the court as time expired.

Boston 99, Sacramento 81
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, as the Boston Celtics defeated the Sacramento Kings, 99-81, on Wednesday. Kevin Garnett had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who came into this game off a double-overtime victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday. Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Jason Terry each scored 12 points off the bench, while Courtney Lee, who started in place of the injured Rajon Rondo, scored nine points. Tyreke Evans had a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, while DeMarcus Cousins added 13 points for the Kings, who have lost five of their past six games.

New York 113, Orlando 97
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Carmelo Anthony scored just enough on Wednesday to set a franchise record and help the Knicks to victory. Anthony scored 20 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists as New York grinded out a 113-97 triumph over the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden. Posting his 30th straight game with at least 20 points, Anthony surpassed Richie Guerin for most consecutive performances in team history. Tyson Chandler added 21 points and seven rebounds, while Amare Stoudemire once again excelled in his bench role, scoring 14 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting. Raymond Felton added 15 points with nine assists in New York's third win in four games. JJ Redick scored a game-high 29 points and Jameer Nelson posted 21, but the struggling Magic dropped their seventh straight and 18th in 20 games. For the second straight game, Orlando was without its top scorer in Arron Afflalo, who sat with a strained calf. The Magic then lost forward Glen Davis early in the contest to a foot injury.

Miami 105, Brooklyn 85
Brooklyn, NY (Sports Network) - LeBron James and the Miami Heat put another beat down on Brooklyn Nets with a thorough 105-85 victory Wednesday at Barclays Center. Two days after being honored by President Barack Obama at the White House for last season's championship, the Heat shot 51.8 percent from the field and a stellar 11-of-19 from behind the arc to earn their 13th straight win over the Nets, including three this season by a combined 63 points. James totaled 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which turned a tie game on its head with a one-sided 36-14 third quarter. Dwyane Wade chipped in 21 points, while Chris Bosh added 16 in the victory. The Heat were coming off a double-overtime loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday and were facing a Nets team that had not lost at home since Christmas Day. But Brooklyn saw its eight-game home winning streak fall by the wayside in part because of 19 turnovers -- eight coming in the decisive third quarter. Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson scored 21 and 16 points, respectively, in defeat.

Chicago 104, Milwaukee 88
Milwaukee, WI (Sports Network) - Nate Robinson scored a game-high 24 points and Jimmy Butler added 18 as the Chicago Bulls cruised past the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-88, at Bradley Center. Luol Deng had 12 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and Joakim Noah chipped in with 12 points and 12 boards for the Bulls, winners in five of their last six. Ersan Ilyasova scored 18 points and Brandon Jennings scored 15 points and dished out five assists for the Bucks, who had won five of six entering the contest.

LA Clippers 96, Minnesota 90
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Blake Griffin recorded a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds to help the Los Angeles Clippers take down the Minnesota Timberwolves, 96-90, at Target Center. Caron Butler added 19 points, Jamal Crawford chipped in 17 points, and DeAndre Jordan donated 16 points and 12 boards for the Clippers, who have won two straight on the heels of a four- game skid. Chris Paul missed his fifth straight game with a bruised right kneecap, but Eric Bledsoe filled in admirably, finishing with 10 points, 10 assists and six steals in the triumph. Nikola Pekovic posted a double-double in his return from a six-game absence, pouring in 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves, who have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11.

San Antonio 102, Charlotte 78
San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) - Tony Parker scored 22 points and dished out seven assists to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 102-78 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points and Danny Green finished with 17 for the short- handed Spurs, winners of nine straight. San Antonio was without forward Tim Duncan (sore left knee) for the fourth straight game. Forwards DeJuan Blair (right knee effusion) and Matt Bonner (right knee effusion) also missed the game. Ramon Sessions scored 20 points off the bench and Kemba Walker chipped in with 16 for the reeling Bobcats, who have dropped 10 of their last 12 games to fall to 11-34.

Utah 104, New Orleans 99
Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz rebounded from the worst home loss in franchise history to edge the New Orleans Hornets, 104-99, on Wednesday. The Jazz, two days removed from an embarrassing 125-80 loss to the Houston Rockets at EnergySolutions Arena, shot 50 percent from the field and outscored the Eric Gordon-less Hornets at the free throw line, 32-17. Millsap totaled 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Jefferson added 22 points for the victors. Randy Foye chipped in 14 points and eight assists, and Derrick Favors logged 15 points off the bench in the victory.The Hornets sat Gordon and his ailing knees after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. They had five players score in double-figures, with Greivis Vasquez putting up 17 points to go with 13 assists.

Denver 118, Houston 110
Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Danilo Gallinari poured in 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to help the Denver Nuggets pull away and take a 118-110 decision over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday at the Pepsi Center. Gallinari made three of his four triples in the final frame, where Denver outscored Houston by 11 points to capture its fifth straight victory and 12th in the month of January. He also tied a career-high with four blocks. Kenneth Faried added 19 points and nine boards, Ty Lawson scored 16 and Andre Iguodala totaled 15 points with six assists in the Nuggets' sixth consecutive win over Houston. The Rockets came in winners of three in a row, but returned to their sluggish defensive ways in allowing the Nuggets to shoot 51.2 percent from the field. Jeremy Lin led the Rockets with 22 points, while Chandler Parsons and James Harden each followed with 21. Omer Asik amassed 10 points and 18 rebounds in the defeat.

Phoenix 92, LA Lakers 86
Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Michael Beasley scored a game-high 27 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 43.8 seconds remaining to lift the Phoenix Suns to a 92-86 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at US Airways Center. Beasley added six rebounds and five steals, while Martin Gortat recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who had lost two straight. Kobe Bryant fell one assist shy of his fourth straight game with double-digit assists and finished with a team-high 17 points, but missed a potential game-tying layup late in regulation as the Lakers surrendered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and saw their three-game winning streak come to an end. Steve Nash, who had spent eight seasons with the Suns before leaving for Los Angeles in the offseason, made his return to Phoenix and finished with 11 points in the setback.

January 31
Oklahoma City 106, Memphis 89
Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) - The Oklahoma City Thunder didn't take it easy on the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies as they rolled to a 106-89 wire-to- wire victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Grizzlies parted ways with their leading scorer, Rudy Gay, in a three-team trade on Wednesday and were without their assets from the deal -- forwards Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The Thunder, after a splitting a six-game road trip that ended in a loss to the Lakers on Sunday, were more than happy to jump on the Grizzlies early, as they built a comfortable 24-point halftime lead. Kevin Durant scored 27 points, Russell Westbrook added 21 and reserves Kevin Martin and Nick Collison chipped in 16 and 12 points, respectively, for the victors. The Grizzlies, the league's stingiest defense coming in, allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 56 percent from the field, while they themselves made just 35 percent of their shots. Jerryd Bayless had a team-high 23 points in defeat.

Golden State 100, Dallas 97
Oakland, CA (Sports Network) - Jarrett Jack hit two big free throws after Andrew Bogut provided the decisive block, as the Golden State Warriors fought off the Dallas Mavericks, 100-97, at Oracle Arena. The Mavericks never led, but had a chance to jump in front in the closing seconds after David Lee's tip-in of a Jack miss rimmed out. Brandan Wright grabbed the rebound with 20.9 seconds remaining, then had the ball on the left block with time winding down. Bogut stayed his ground, however, and as Wright went up for the shot, Bogut got a hand on it and forced a breakout the other way. Jack, starting in place of Stephen Curry for the second straight game, was fouled with two ticks left and drained both at the foul line before Vince Carter's off-balanced 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short. Klay Thompson paced Golden State with 27 points, while Lee added 15 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists in the club's third straight win. Dallas, playing without Dirk Nowitzki due to a right adductor strain, was led by O.J. Mayo's 25 points. Carter netted 22 points, while Shawn Marion chipped in 18 points and 17 boards in the Mavs' second consecutive loss.

February 1
Indiana 102, Miami 89
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - David West racked up 30 points behind a near-perfect shooting display, and the Indiana Pacers kept up their recent home dominance with an impressive 102-89 triumph over the defending world champion Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. West went 12-of-15 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line while also pulling down a game-high seven rebounds. Four other Pacers scored in double figures and Indiana shot 55.7 percent as a team en route to its 13th consecutive win at home. Paul George and Lance Stephenson each contributed 15 points to the victory, with George Hill adding 12 for Indiana. The Heat were coming off a 105-85 road rout of Brooklyn on Wednesday, but weren't nearly as sharp in this one and dropped to 1-2 on their current four-game trip. Miami shot just 47.1 percent overall against the league's top-ranked team in field goal percentage defense, and committed 11 turnovers that the Pacers converted into 16 points. LeBron James came through with 28 points and six rebounds for Miami, while Dwyane Wade finished with 17 points and Chris Bosh had 13 in the setback.

Toronto 98, LA Clippers 73
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - The acquisition of Rudy Gay paid immediate dividends for the Raptors. Gay, who came off the bench for his new team Friday night, led the way with 20 points in Toronto's 98-73 blowout of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Raptors acquired Gay and center Hamed Haddadi on Wednesday from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for guard Jose Calderon, forward Ed Davis and a 2013 second-round draft pick. Memphis then sent Calderon to Detroit for forwards Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. Gay made half of his 16 shots from the field and was helped by three other players in double figures, as the Raptors snapped a three-game slide. Amir Johnson had 19 points and tied a career-best with 16 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan chipped in 19 points and seven assists, while John Lucas III added 17 points. Blake Griffin had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who played the second contest of their eight-game Grammy road trip. Jamal Crawford totaled 14 points, but the Clippers lost for the fifth time in their last seven games.

Boston 97, Orlando 84
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each posted double-doubles and the now-weakened Celtics bench did the rest, as Boston handed the Orlando Magic an eighth straight loss, 97-84, on Friday. Just hours after learning key reserve Jared Sullinger will miss the rest of the season following back surgery, the Celtics shot 50 percent from the floor and held the Magic to 38 percent shooting to win going away. Pierce logged 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while Garnett chipped in 14 points and 10 boards as Boston climbed back to .500 with their third straight win -- all without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. Jeff Green netted 17 points, and fellow reserves Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry each chipped in 12 in the rout. Courtney Lee, Rondo's replacement in the starting lineup, rounded out the double-digit scorers with 14. The Magic, playing their first game since Glen Davis broke his left foot, were also missing Arron Afflalo and had another starter go down late in the first half when Jameer Nelson suffered a left forearm contusion.

Brooklyn 93, Chicago 89
Brooklyn, NY (Sports Network) - Brook Lopez scored 20 points and the Brooklyn Nets held off a short-handed Chicago Bulls team down the stretch to post a 93-89 victory at the Barclays Center. Brooklyn also received 13 points apiece from Joe Johnson and MarShon Brooks in bouncing back from a lopsided home loss to Miami on Wednesday, though it still got all it could handle from a Chicago squad playing without three key regulars in All-Star center Joakim Noah, forward Carlos Boozer and guard Kirk Hinrich. Noah sat out the contest due to plantar fasciitis in his foot, Boozer missed a second straight game with a sore hamstring and Hinrich was sent back to Chicago earlier in the day for further evaluation for a right elbow infection. Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli each had 18 points for the Bulls, who owned a 73-72 lead with eight minutes remaining despite their depleted roster. Taj Gibson, starting in Boozer's place, compiled 16 points and nine rebounds, while Nate Robinson came through with a 12-point, 11-assist effort handling point guard duties in Hinrich's absence.

Detroit 117, Cleveland 99
Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) - Brandon Knight filled the stat sheet with 20 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in Detroit's 117-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyle Singler also scored 20 points and Greg Monroe contributed 18 with 16 rebounds for Detroit, which beat Cleveland for a fifth straight time. Rodney Stuckey totaled 14 points for the Pistons, who snapped a two-game skid. Detroit won despite not having newly-acquired point guard Jose Calderon available for the game. He isn't able to play yet due to visa issues. The Pistons acquired Calderon Wednesday night from the Toronto Raptors in a three-team deal that also included the Memphis Grizzlies. Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye were sent to the Grizzlies, who shipped star guard Rudy Gay north of the border. The Cavs, who have lost back-to-back contests following a three-game winning streak, were led by Tristan Thompson's 19 points. Kyrie Irving had 14 points, but just three after the first quarter.

New York 96, Milwaukee 86
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Carmelo Anthony tallied 25 points along with eight rebounds and six assists, as the New York Knicks toughened up defensively in the second half to claim a 96-86 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Tyson Chandler anchored the defense for New York during a 30-11 push bridging the third and fourth quarters. He grabbed 20 rebounds -- eight offensive -- and blocked two shots for the night to help the Knicks to their third straight victory. J.R. Smith knocked down five 3-pointers en route to 17 points and Amare Stoudemire also poured in 17 off the bench as the Knicks defeated Milwaukee for the fourth consecutive time. Raymond Felton contributed 14 points and eight assists in the victory. The Bucks controlled the first half, but scored just 33 points while shooting 31.7 percent over the final two quarters. Irsan Ilyasova scored 19 points, but had just three in the second half.

Philadelphia 89, Sacramento 80
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Thaddeus Young posted 23 points and 15 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers withstood a late push by the Sacramento Kings to take an 89-80 decision at Wells Fargo Center. Jrue Holiday added 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Nick Young poured in 20 points for Philadelphia, which won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game stretch from Nov. 25-30. Tyreke Evans scored a game-high 29 points for the Kings, who have dropped two straight and six of seven overall. Isaiah Thomas had 24 points and DeMarcus Cousins contributed a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in defeat.

Memphis 85, Washington 76
Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - Tayshaun Prince looked pretty comfortable in his Memphis debut, making several clutch shots down the stretch to help the Grizzlies down the Washington Wizards, 85-76, at FedExForum on Friday. Prince received the most playing time of the three new players acquired in Wednesday's trade, in which the Grizzlies shipped Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. In 32 minutes of play, Prince scored 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Ed Davis and Austin Daye saw limited action in their respective debuts. Mike Conley scored a team-high 18 points and Marc Gasol contributed 13 points and 15 rebounds for Memphis, which bounced back after a loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday. Nene was Washington's only scorer in double-figures, tallying 14 points. John Wall contributed nine points along with seven rebounds and six assists in the Wizards' third straight defeat.

Denver 113, New Orleans 98
Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Andre Iguodala scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting in leading the Denver Nuggets to their sixth straight win with a 113-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at Pepsi Center. Ty Lawson recorded 21 points and 13 assists in a balanced effort for the Nuggets, who got 18 points from Danilo Gallinari and 17 from Corey Brewer. Denver had 32 fastbreak points thanks to forcing 22 turnovers. Ryan Anderson led New Orleans with 21 points, while Anthony Davis provided a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the club's third straight loss. Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez also netted 13 points apiece in defeat.

Dallas 109, Phoenix 99
Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - O.J. Mayo led a balanced attack for Dallas, scoring 20 points as the Mavericks continued their dominance over the Phoenix Suns with a 109-99 victory on Friday. Darren Collison poured in 19 points, Shawn Marion tallied 14 points to go with 11 rebounds and Vince Carter added 17 off the bench for the Mavericks, who have captured 11 of the past 12 matchups with Phoenix, including the first three of this season. Dallas prevailed despite missing Dirk Nowitzki for the second consecutive contest with a strained right adductor. Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright scored 13 and 11 points, respectively, in the win. Goran Dragic fell just shy of a triple- double, registering 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Phoenix, which was coming off a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Utah 86, Portland 77
Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - Al Jefferson posted 21 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Utah Jazz to an 86-77 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Paul Millsap contributed 15 points, Randy Foye 14 and DeMarre Carroll 13 for Utah, which raced out to a big first-half lead and won for the seventh time in its last nine contests. Rookie Damian Lillard, who played college ball at Weber State, scored 26 for Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge ended with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews was helped off the court in the third quarter with a severely sprained right ankle. Matthews isn't expected to play in the rematch Saturday night in Portland.

LA Lakers 111, Minnesota 100
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Pau Gasol was inserted back into the starting lineup and recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds to help the Los Angeles Lakers continue their dominance over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 111-100 victory at Target Center. Even with All-Star center Dwight Howard back in Los Angeles to have treatment done on his ailing right shoulder, the Lakers raced out to an early lead and held on to snap an eight-game road skid and earn their 20th straight win over the Timberwolves. Kobe Bryant nearly posted a triple-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, while Antawn Jamison and Steve Nash chipped in 18 and 17 points, respectively, for the victors. The Lakers dropped the opener of their seven-game road trip on Wednesday after squandering a late double-digit lead to the Suns. They saw a 26-point cushion dip to four midway through the fourth quarter Friday before pulling away for their fourth win in five games. Alexey Shved had 18 points to pace the Timberwolves, losers of six straight.

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